Fierce windstorm wreaks havoc in region
By Brent Curtis
and Susan Smallheer
STAFF WRITERs | December 22,2012
Above, Shane Durkin of From the Ground Up Landscaping and Construction cleans up the entrance to Home Depot in Rutland Town after an evergreen was toppled during Friday’s windstorm. At left, the storm produced some beautiful rainbows. This one is seen from Route 7 south in Rutland.
Donald Ducharme Jr., was sitting on his couch Friday morning when the wind kicked up outside and his Castleton home exploded around him.
“I heard a snap and thought ‘Oh (expletive),’” said Ducharme who realized in a split second that the thundering crack was the sound of the towering pine tree outside breaking apart.
Lying on his couch four days after undergoing hip surgery, Ducharme said he had nowhere to go and no way to get there when a large section of the tree fell on his house off Route 4A in Castleton.
“Glass started breaking and the roof collapsed. I was covered in sheetrock,” said Ducharme, who strained his leg but was otherwise unharmed in the incident. “Branches came through the roof and the impact shot the kitchen cabinets across the room.”
It was a scary incident not isolated to Ducharme’s home, or the Castleton area for that matter.
All over Rutland County and the western regions of the state, high winds wreaked havoc Friday.
No injuries or deaths were reported due to the weather, but thousands of homes are still without power due to tree falls, according to Green Mountain Power officials.
“The trees, it’s all because of the trees,” GMP spokesman Jeremy Baker said. “It’s like the Nor’icane storm that happened five years ago, except spread out from Bennington to Jericho. It wasn’t bad everywhere along that corridor, but there were pockets that were similar to (the Nor’icane.)”
The Nor’icane knocked down thousands of trees in Rutland and also knocked out power to thousands of city residents for days.
The windstorm that hammered Vermont on Friday also promises to leave some homes and businesses in the dark — perhaps until Christmas Day, Baker said.
At 5 p.m., GMP was reporting almost 32,000 customers without power. By almost 8 p.m., that number had dropped to 11,600. Most of the outages in the Rutland region were clustered in the western part of the county, Baker said.
That’s tens of thousands less than the number of outages reported from Superstorm Sandy two months ago. But many of the remaining outages involved extensive damage to transmission lines and utility poles which could take days for the utility’s 160 contract line workers and 110 tree workers to fix, he said.
“The extent of the damage is what’s really going to prolong this,” he said. “Crews are having to cut their way in and out of the places they need to get to.”
A number of businesses and homeowners were working on their own repairs Friday.
The Home Depot in Rutland Town was forced to close Monday after the wind knocked out power, tore a rubber membrane off the roof, and blew in the doors of the store’s garden center, according to store manager Andy Shaw.
“We were getting water in the building, so we decided for the safety of everyone that we needed to close the store,” he said.
But just because the store was closed for repairs didn’t mean employees were turning away customers trying to deal with their own storm damage.
Chris Manfredi said he drove all the way from Sudbury to buy some lumber so he could fix some windows shattered in the storm.
“A tree branch came through one and the other one just blew out,” Manfredi said. “Then I got here and found out they were closed, but they asked if that was what I needed and I said ‘yeah’ and they went in and got it.”
Just across Route 4A from Ducharme’s home, the office manager at New England Trucks and Equipment said it would take a lot more than lumber to fix a dump truck that was destroyed when a pine tree fell near the office.
“It broke the dump truck’s piston,” she said, gesturing toward the wrecked dump-bed which was torn from the body and laying beside the truc. “My vehicle would have been totaled too if I was here. I usually park right in front of the building but was somewhere else this morning. Thank goodness.”
In Bennington, one of the casualties of the windstorm was the giant ladderback chair in front of LaFlamme’s Inc. Furniture. The 3,000-pound chair, made of cedar and white pine, had been built earlier this year to replace a local landmark that had been dismantled 12 years ago. It was unveiled with fanfare just a few weeks ago. Owner Christopher LaFlamme said he would definitely repair the chair and get it back up.
“The chair will be fixed, and that’s already begun,” said LaFlamme, who had purchased Haynes & Kane Furniture Store, the landmark store where the chair was first erected back in the 1960s.
“The chair is only a part of a long list of craziness that hit Bennington today,” he said, referring to the winds that brought severe damage to parts of western Vermont.
“It was important to build and it is important to fix,” he said. “We want to do something nice for the community.”
He said that he had ordered “hurricane straps” for the chair to keep it properly anchored and those straps were due to be put in place on Friday. “We never expected these types of winds in December.”
Bennington Police Sgt. Lloyd Dean said the giant chair collapsed around 8 a.m. He said high winds caused some damage in Bennington, including downed power lines and trees that fell onto a group of students’ cars at Mount Anthony Union High School.
No one was hurt, he said.
“The wind was really strong. It almost blew me off my feet,” said Dean.